Easing his feet into a pair of Crocs, doling out cans of coffee and zipping a windbreaker over a T-shirt, Yoon tugs a bit at his navy blue sweats while leaning forward to intercept questions, eyes wide open and ready, mouth pursed in anticipation for, well, anything, including talk of the scandalous termination of his KBS show and of his band’s break-up. All of which he knows is coming, as it must.
Since he debuted in 1994, Yoon has suffered his fair share of hardships; some blatantly laid out to dry by the press, others endured in relative silence. Yet none of it seems to have rocked his confidence. His voice runs low and raspy, edged with something akin to sleep -- a near emblem of laidback assurance -- as he lays out his history, from his beginnings as part of a high school copy band to his rise to fame as the lead vocalist of a 13-year-old rock posse first known as Yoon Do Hyun Band then as YB in 2005.
Now he is back in full force, having ended his year and four month absence from KBS with a guest appearance on “Yu Huiyeol’s Sketchbook” in August.
The appearance proved somewhat symbolic because “Sketchbook” succeeded his former music talk show KBS’ “Yoon Do-hyun’s Love Letter.” It also proved potentially ironic because after “Love Letter” ended its near seven-year run in 2008, rumors surfaced that Yoon was being ousted by the network.
“I have nothing to say,” Yoon remained tight-lipped about the controversy surrounding the discontinuation of both his KBS television show and his KBS 2FM radio show in 2008; the same year that he took a supportive stance on the mad cow disease protests, giving rise to speculation that he was critical of the current administration and that therefore he was being pushed out by the broadcasting network.
Gossip and speculation peaked when in 2009 his scheduled appearances on KBS’ “1 vs. 100” and “Vitamin” were canceled. The network said there were no orders to prevent Yoon from starring in KBS programs and that guest overlap and other issues resulted in the change.
|Still going strong: rock vocalist Yoon Do-hyun at the band’s studio Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald|
In response to all of this, Yoon said: “Of course there are things that I know. I know all the facts too. But if I talk about them right now, people who should not be harmed might get hurt.”
When does he plan on addressing the rumors?
“When I am around 60-years-old,” he said. “If I can have a good laugh over it when I talk about it then, then I think that will be a good time to discuss it.”
For now, Yoon is intent on his future. Following last month’s release of his band’s mini album -- a collaboration with electronic group Risque Rhythm Machine -- Yoon is reaching out to a wider television audience as judge-and-mentor for the Pan-Asian girl group “Project Lotus.”
“I asked them, ‘Why did you (pick me) as a judge?’” he said. “There are lots of real superstars like Rain or Se7en, so I questioned why they approached me.”
“Project Lotus” Korea producing partner Won Lee pinpointed Yoon’s “real touring experience” in America and Europe as a serious draw. Such expertise meant he could “show these girls real musical presence and showmanship.”
In a to-be-televised search for a quintet of female singers from Korea, Japan, China, India and the Philippines, Yoon and a panel of judge-mentors will help select five finalists from each country, guide them and eliminate them over the course of six weeks until a five-member girl band is formed.
The panel includes the Spice Girls (Lee says a few of them are signed on and other agreements are pending), Hong Kong star-and-singer Karen Mok and former GRAMMY Foundation Chair Steve Schnur.
“I have never experienced something like this before,” Yoon expressed his excitement at taking part in a project backed by former Walt Disney Company (Asia Pacific) president Jon Niermann’s FarWest Entertainment production company.
It helps that Yoon can speak English; a skill he honed when he and his band started touring America and Europe on a regular basis starting in 2005.
“For example, when we went on the Warped Tour (in America) last year, there were no Koreans, so there were no opportunities to speak Korean,” he said. “So I met (overseas musician) friends and we talked and hung out.”
“My dream is to go around the world, performing,” Yoon said, quashing delusions of grandeur about making it big on the international scene. “Frankly, I’d rather perform than become a huge star through my music.”
Standing at the tail-end of 25 albums -- collaborations, solo and band releases included -- Yoon boasts an impressive career. But it is one that has had its hiccups.
“We disbanded once,” he detailed how in 2000, around six years since his debut, fractious relations between him and another band member and the band’s inability to spring from the underground into a more profitable spotlight resulted in their fragmentation.
“So I got a different job, raising dogs. Not as livestock for consumption, but as pets,” Yoon said.
In the end Yoon returned to music. He and his band went on in 2002 to rocket to fame with the World Cup cheer song “Oh! Pilsung Korea,” which he admits was the peak of their career.
“But we don’t think of it as our song,” said Yoon, explaining how punk band Crying Nut sang it also. Nevertheless, it is a song that will be linked to him and his band for a long time to come.
Yoon has come a long way from his teenage years in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, when he sought to emulate rock legends Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. He has come a long way, also, from when he went to university in Seoul a means to an end, to get into the urban music scene.
Even after he got kicked out of college for failing to show up for classes, and despite a multitude of minor regrets, he stands by his calling.
“The one thing you can’t quit is music.”